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To preface, I am a beginner at the piano, but I do have many years experience playing the guitar, lately in a style similar to the greatest 60s instrumental guitarist Dick Dale.

I've begun by attempting to practice the scales starting with C, G, and D, but D is giving me some issues that I would like to fix before moving on to A, specifically with the F# when ascending the scale on the 3rd finger. Every time I get to it, my finger appears to be fully extended instead of the desired "downward curl", and because of this, the note rings out softer than the others.

The obvious answer is practice, practice, practice (which I am of course doing...) but maybe I'm just focusing on the wrong goal altogether. It feels like I'm spending a lot of time on this, when it took me only 2 days to master all the white keys of C major. Is this even an issue, or should I just hit the black ones harder to make up for my weaker attack?

  • Obligatory dead horse beating: the importance of having a decent teacher cannot be overstated when learning an instrument like the piano. Practicing poor technique can actually lead to injury, and is less likely to magically lead to good technique. – Todd Wilcox Dec 31 '16 at 3:53
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It sounds like your hand might not be far enough forward into the keys. Make sure that the key can be easily reached without stretching your finger out flat — the primary motion of the finger should be pressing down. (Don't move too far in or you will run into other issues, as here.)

As well, make sure to keep your arms/wrists high. Your wrists should be held flat above and just outside the edge of the keyboard, with your fingers curling down to meet the keys. Similar to the right side of this image, except I would even raise the wrist a little higher:

wrist position

My answer to this question might also be of use: What can I do about my problems with piano scales which manifest in just one direction?

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    This looks exactly like what I'm doing wrong. It looks like a balancing act of keeping the fingers as close to the face of the black keys without passing them, minimizing the distance needed to reach "up to" them. – derekvinyard98 Dec 30 '16 at 22:40
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    Get your thumb in the right place, and everything else should follow naturally. Your thumb should be pressing "down" on the top of the white keys, not at the extreme end of the keys with your hand and wrist low and your thumb almost horizontal (or even worse, actually pointing up). Eventually, you will need to play octaves and chords with your thumb on a black key, so your hand needs to be in a position to do that easily. – user19146 Dec 30 '16 at 22:54
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    It's reported that the first scale that Chopin used when teaching beginners was B major, not C. With your fingers all on the black keys and only your thumb on the white, you "naturally" get your hand into a good playing position. Plus the fact that a B major scale is easier to play than C major, even if it might seem harder to read music with a 5-sharp key signature. – user19146 Dec 31 '16 at 13:46
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You need to do three things here; Shaping, where you raise the arm from the top of the forearm and brings the three finger above the F#; Forward shift into the key where you feel like your elbow is bringing the finger forward into the key and; gravity is what plays the key, not the finger. There is a fourth movement called the walking arm which comes from the elbow which sets up the thumb to play DOWN onto the G instead of curling the thumb under the palm which is a dual muscular pull and will both hinder your playing and cripple you later in life. I don't know why teachers teach flexing the thumb. After the elbow moves the hand out of the way so the thumb can play straight down, you can rotate the thumb down to the G without even using it. Rotation comes from the pronators and supinators. If your teacher doesn't know any of this it would be best to get another teacher for they will cripple you eventually.

  • I very rarely rotate my hand, i have long fingers and i just pull my thumb under my wrist and easily press G in D-major scale. – SovereignSun Dec 31 '16 at 18:03
  • Gravity should absolutely not be used to play the keys. Striking should be a controlled motion of the fingers. Gravity can aid a little for fortissimo but it should really be coming from muscular strength. This takes time to develop of course, otherwise (as you say) you'll just hurt yourself. – Matthew Read Dec 31 '16 at 19:27
  • @SovereignSun " I just pull my thumb under my wrist..." that will get you part of the way to being a keyboard player, but either you will reach a point where either you can't progress any further with playing faster, or moving around the keyboard easily, or else you will have to "unlearn" that technique - and the longer you use it, the harder it will be to unlearn it. With that technique, you are teaching yourself how to play a keyboard they way it was played 200 or 250 years ago (when modern pianos didn't even exist), but music has moved on since then. – user19146 Jan 1 '17 at 0:59
  • @alephzero So you say that is an incorrect technique? – SovereignSun Jan 1 '17 at 10:11
  • Playing from muscle strength creates stress to the long flexors. If the key is depressed using weight of the arm, (NEVER PRESSING INTO THE KEYBED), you can use the flexors for fine tune movements. I urge all piano players to sit at a tracker organ for a few hours. You will quickly realize that the only way to play is with the weight of the arm. Every error in your technique will be revealed. Regardless of the "modernity" of today's pianos, the same principles of ergonomics apply across the board. Whether it is a tracker or a toy Casio, control of gravity is the proper way. – Malcolm Kogut Jan 1 '17 at 19:07

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